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Cognitive and Navigational Skills of Children who have Complex Communication Needs

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This study examined the cognitive skills required to navigate a speech-generating device (i.e. iPad) among children and adolescents (ages 3-21) who have complex communication needs (CCN). These individuals often require other means of communication in order to interact with their environment and can thus benefit from an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) system. Speech-generating devices (SGD) produce an electronic voice output allowing an individual who has CCN to actively participate in conversations. However, selecting the most suitable speech-generating device (SGD) can be challenging. Previous studies have underlined the implication of cognitive abilities during navigation (i.e. attention, memory, etc.), and more interestingly, the fact that they can predict navigational success. However, the role of specific cognitive abilities differs according to the population studied. In fact, no study has examined the cognitive demands associated with navigating an SGD among children who have CCN.
In the current study, participants had a congenital, neurological or acquired disorder (i.e cerebral palsy, autism), or a severe speech disorder such as apraxia. To measure navigational success, an iPad with the Proloquo2Go application was used. The participants were also assessed using seven subtests of the Leiter-3, a non-verbal cognitive test. Preliminary results showed strong correlations between sustained attention, categorisation skills, and the ability to navigate an SGD. The knowledge of the implication of cognition on the ability to navigate an SGD could help clinicians take an individualized approach during the device selection process for this population. More in depth results will be presented at the conference.


Alexandra Albert    
Laurentian University

Manon Robillard    
Laurentian University


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